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Best rewards come over the long term

The past 12 months have not seen many price gains in the U.S. coin market. But there have been a few.

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Once a year, I update pricing charts that appear in my North American Coins and Prices book. I just finished this annual exercise, so I thought I would share a few observations.

Of the 41 items that I keep an eye on for chart-making purposes, the coin that my readers are most likely to own, and therefore most likely to profit from, is the 1923-S Walking Liberty half dollar.

Since 1972, this coin has been moving ahead in a manner that probably has proven to be a pleasant surprise to owners. Its retail price has risen by more than a factor of 10 since 1972. The chart has it at $560 at the moment.

Readers might also be happy to see a 1932-D quarter in F-12 grade rise to $170, which is up from $115 a year ago. The ride for this coin over the years has not been smooth. I note that five years ago it was $140.

Coins like the 1953 Franklin half dollar in MS-60 hardly budge from year to year, but when you look back to 1972, you do see movement. It would have cost you less than $10 at the beginning of the chart. At the present $22 price, you would have a profit. However, if you had purchased it during the rambunctious 1980s, you would have lost half your money.

Coins like the 1853 Liberty Head $10 gold piece in XF-40 follow bullion around. You could have purchased it for around $50 in 1972. Now it is $1,340, but it was higher in the years like 2011 when gold was setting new records.

As coin collectors, we like to think of ourselves as having a long-term perspective. We do. But even we can get it wrong, as the chart shows for the 1892 Columbian half dollar in MS-60. It is $45 now, which isn’t a bad price for a common coin. It also represents a nice doubling in the last several years.

However, if you had decided to purchase it when we were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, you would be hurting. You would have lost nearly half your money, and you couldn’t blame it on swings in the price of silver bullion. I guess we collectors are event-driven too – at least in some cases.

The same pattern can be seen in the price of an F-12 1914-D Lincoln cent. At the time of the Bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 2009, its price was about double the current level of $210. But long-term owners show nice gains from the beginning of the chart in 1972.

For coin collectors, long-term is the name of the game.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

More Collecting Resources

• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2018 North American Coins & Prices guide.

• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2018 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.